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Gallows’ Rot, Part 1 The Next Noon Saloon – Wild West Location D&D 5e - Banner

A system-agnostic wild west saloon setting and a group of characters to fill it.

Despite the desert doing everything it can to choke the life out of its inhabitants, small towns have managed to survive along its roads. These settlements begin as waystations that provide travelers with shelter, food, and water, growing over time as others stay to work and capitalize on the location. What starts as a road stop becomes a community. And where there is a community, there is a place for its people to drink their stresses away at day’s end.

The Next Noon Saloon is one such place for a small desert town. It is a gathering point for the townsfolk that binds their community with shared revelry. The saloon’s drinks always served to ease relationships as its music washed away the dirt and aches of both the town’s workers and those who had traveled the desert to reach it. Its two rooms were even kept for exactly these travelers, inviting them to stay and enjoy the town and its people.

But this community has only just recently been shaken by a string of murders that has left no one unaffected. The saloon’s regular chatter has been stifled by tension. Its people struggle to fill the vacancies left by those they lost. And visitors are greeted with newfound reticence. But it remains the singular place to encounter the defining members of the citizenry, from the saloon’s proprietor to the town’s new sheriff and potential next mayor. Speaking with these people is not only the best way to learn of the recent deaths but may also lead capable adventurers down a path that sees them confront the very man behind the murders.

The Next Noon and its characters are only part 1 of the adventure. Be sure to check back later for parts 2 and 3, which will see the party meet with the town’s former sheriff and strike at the heart of the Deathtouched!

The Next Noon Saloon

The wooden building shows its age in its discoloration and general wear that exceeds the other structures around it. Despite this, it stands tall and glows with an interior light that invites you out of the grueling desert and into its warmth. A shaded verandah greets you before the door, continuing around the building’s sides with stairs to the second floor. A sign is positioned above, reading ‘Next Noon Saloon’.

The doors swing with a faint squeal, revealing an open, warm central room of various seats, tables, and a well-stocked bar. The mingling smells of alcohol, smoke, and lantern oil seem to have soaked into the wood of the furniture and the sparse arrangements of books and card games left on the tables. A set of stairs connects the room’s far end to the second floor, the center of which is open around a large, ringed chandelier.

The town’s cultural center is its saloon, a bar originally built to capitalize on desert travelers by serving them food and drinks and providing basic shelter. It has grown and been renovated to better suit this purpose in the years since its opening, developing alongside the town around it. Part of this development included the saloon receiving its name: the Next Noon Saloon. It earned this title from a joke told by its owner at the time, who would always say that the saloon was open until “noon tomorrow”, regardless of when he was asked.

The saloon continues to function through the town’s current turmoil. It is open at all hours, serving a wide variety of drinks and a far smaller selection of food limited to what few vegetables and meats can be grown and hunted nearby and punctuated with whatever the season has made cheap enough to have delivered. The saloon has two modest rooms for travelers to stay in, one of which is currently occupied by Aline Poria. It is otherwise only sparsely decorated with various sitting areas, bookshelves holding books pertaining to basic knowledge and the local area, paintings of the desert landscape, and a billiards table on the second floor.

Map & Asset Downloads

The Next Noon and its inhabitants were created to fit our recent release, the ‘Wild West Saloon’. We also have a selection of other maps to go along with the saloon, whether you want additional buildings or a preprepared desert town map…

Characters of the Next Noon

Recent events in the town have left the saloon far quieter than it once was. Some still seek the comfort of the familiar, though many others are kept away by their feelings of loss and the aura of fear that persists in the town. The town’s leaders, both official and unofficial, still make use of the saloon for various reasons. Its current owner, Vanko Howell, continues to man the bar, always ready to welcome anyone looking to dispel their worries or rest after a long day. Nella Crichton helps with the duties and plays music for the patrons, though largely as a guise for furthering her own secret goals. Sheriff Marlon Drobern and Miles Kensel both still frequent the Next Noon to make themselves visible to the people and meet with newcomers, instilling a sense of stability. Currently, only one such newcomer is staying in the saloon: a courier named Aline Poria.

Vanko Howell

(CG male half-orc thug)

A muscle-bound tower of a half-orc man stands behind the bar, meeting your gaze and flashing a smile as soon as you step foot inside. He wears most of a formal suit, its sleeves having either been removed or possibly torn off by a flexing of his arms, and pulls a set of glasses onto the counter in anticipation.

The current proprietor and bartender of the Next Noon is Vanko Howell. Vanko is a lifelong local of the town, having taken many trips to larger cities and more idyllic locales, yet always choosing to return home. As such, he is a trusted member of the community with a great deal of sway in local opinion. Vanko has no interest in a role of organized leadership, however, preferring instead to leave that position to those he believes are better suited to it.

Vanko is an endlessly calm and friendly individual who always exudes contentment. He makes a point to personally attend to the patrons of his saloon, striking up conversations and ensuring that they are pleased with the service. Vanko also shows persistence in his affability, even in spite of his and the town’s recent losses. This has positioned him as an emotional anchor for the town, providing the people with an important feeling of solace within the Next Noon. His placid temperament breaks only in response to those that would upset the peace in his saloon, as he quickly brings fights to their end and expels anyone responsible.

News of Masters. Part of Vanko’s conversation with newcomers is also to ask about their trip through the desert, given its many dangers and wonders. One such conversation was with the courier Aline Poria, whose trip was largely mundane but did include spotting a lone person sitting beside a distant campfire on her way toward the town. Vanko remembers this mention and suspects that the individual was Sheriff Jesse Masters. He has not yet told anyone else about it, as he worries that it would only inflict the new sheriff, Marlon Drobern, with further inner turmoil and distract him from where he currently needs to be.

Sheriff Marlon Drobern

(LG male half-elf scout)

The man wears a faded purple vest and sleeves rolled to his elbows, giving him unrestricted access to the pouches and weapons attached to his belt. He responds quickly to your appearance, his eyes flashing to your own arms and armor as he rises from his seat.

Sheriff Drobern is the recently promoted replacement for his esteemed predecessor, Jesse Masters. Marlon was Masters’ deputy and protege for many years, enlisting only shortly after reaching working age. He idolized them, modeling himself on what he saw as their upstanding idealism and sense of duty. In return, Marlon’s naturally strong and altruistic morality acted as a guiding second voice for Masters.

Masters and Drobern were the ones to apprehend the murderer, Heinrich Malletum, who was summarily hanged for his crimes. But Malletum inexplicably rose from the grave shortly after, claiming another victim before escaping into the desert. Masters, consumed by a feeling of personal responsibility, followed after him. Their last act as sheriff was to promote Drobern as their successor.

Since his appointment, Marlon has struggled to fill the gap left by Masters’ departure. His efforts to live up to his own idealized version of them are in opposition to the realities of both the Malletum situation and Marlon’s own role as sheriff and what it entails. This internal conflict has left him unsure of himself, particularly as he focuses on the town’s safety over reconciling his own thoughts.

Sheriff’s suspicions. Marlon is the first to approach any newcomers, such as the party, as he feels a need to inspect them in conversation as a safety precaution. He asks them basic but pointed questions, such as where they are traveling from and where they are headed, as well as if they noticed anything suspicious during their time in the desert. If asked for the reason behind the interrogation, he vaguely states that the desert has been more dangerous of late and that the town has recently lost people as a result of it, putting everyone on edge. He only elaborates on the situation once he is content with the answers he is given.

Tension in the leadership. Marlon’s stresses are worsening his usual flaws. He has always been guilty of sharing the town’s apprehension towards Miles Kensel, owing to the latter’s wealthy origins, though he rarely interacted with Miles without the presence of Sheriff Masters. Marlon’s new position changes this and the pressure he feels has exacerbated his previously hidden prejudice and made him particularly irritable towards Miles, inadvertently contributing to the unrest in the town by creating friction between its new leaders.

Cerenela ‘Nella’ Crichton

(NE female elf deathtouched hand)

A woman steps gracefully through the room, drawing glances from everyone around with her clean blonde hair, porcelain skin, and half-buttoned shirt. She responds to each of them with a smirk and greets many of them by name as she moves to the nearby instruments, adjusting her gloves for comfort.

Cerenella ‘Nella’ Crichton is a musician who has lived in the town for a number of years. She works in the Next Noon, assisting Vanko Howell and spending the rest of her time playing her lute, violin, or the saloon’s piano to entertain its patrons.

Nella is a bubbly young woman who hides a wicked wit under her usual lighthearted demeanor. She treats Vanko like a sibling, taking enjoyment in pestering and teasing him, and is quick to befriend anyone that enters the saloon. Anyone who does engage in conversation with Nella is sure to also learn how intelligent she is and the joy she takes in learning from those she meets.

Yet Nella’s outward persona hides her true obsession. She is a devout member of the Deathtouched cult, which saved her from dying of exposure in the desert and evangelized to her the wonder of such an experience. Nella was enraptured by their rhetoric and gleefully joined them. She was made a deathtouched hand, the evidence of which she hides by always wearing either lace or leather gloves. Nella was then sent to the town as an observer, working in the Next Noon to spy on its people to report back to the cult. It was she who recognized the promise in Heinrich Malletum and who then directed him to enter the desert and find the cult after he returned from death.

Cultist’s queries. Nella makes friendly conversation with the party while they’re in the saloon, asking them their reason for visiting the town and what their plans are. If the characters already spoke to Marlon Drobern or Miles Kensel, she gently probes the subject of what they talked about, jokingly apologizing for them being a bother. She also makes a point to listen to the characters’ conversations anytime she is close enough to hear them. Nella then uses a sending stone to report the most pertinent information to the cult’s central headquarters each night.

What exactly is a deathtouched hand? Many of the cult’s members and their different abilities will be covered in Part 2 of the adventure, so be sure to check back to find out exactly what Nella is capable of!

Miles Kensel

(NG male human noble)

The man pulls his long blonde hair back, tying it tightly behind his head with a neatness to match his white shirt and blue vest. He gives a friendly smile, though his expression and body language carry a determined, commanding presence.

The victim that marked Heinrich Malletum’s return from death was the town’s mayor, Jun Lorik. With the position now vacant and many fearful of other attacks on town leaders, the only person seemingly willing to step in as mayor is Miles Kensel. But Miles’ campaign has not been without resistance. 

Miles has not lived in the town for long and originally came with a suspiciously full coin purse and cases of clean, expensive clothes. The townsfolk knew from the moment of his arrival that Miles had come from a position of wealth, reminding them of the many lords and landowners that had attempted to purchase control of the area in the past. This persisted when Miles chose to remain in the town, his actions never quite dispelling the apprehensive prejudice that he was first greeted with. His current willingness to take the role of mayor has many believing that they were right in their first appraisal of him.

Against all expectations, Miles’ intentions are pure. He came from a wealthy family that fractured when his father’s underworld dealings were uncovered, Miles himself leaving with only what clothes and money he could carry. He chose to stay in the town as a way of separating himself from his past and its illustrious trappings. Over time, he grew to love the place and its people. But he now sees cracks forming under the pressure of Malletum’s influence, reminding him of what once happened to his own family. 

Miles has an honest wish to help the town and believes that he has the ability to do so. He is a man of simple but strong principles who values his community and is willing to put himself at risk to ensure that the town survives. Unfortunately, one of Miles’ key skeptics is Sheriff Drobern, who is popular in the town but distrusts Miles, yet is too uneasy to act effectively in the current situation. And without the acceptance of the sheriff, Miles is left largely powerless to help the town.

Kensel’s proposition. Miles is eager to find a way to help the town. He makes sure to observe Sheriff Drobern questioning any newcomers and his interest is piqued if he recognizes a group of capable adventurers that Drobern approves of. Seeing such a party gives Miles an idea for a way to both earn Drobern’s trust and potentially heal the town.

Miles approaches the party shortly after their conversation with Sheriff Drobern, offering to pay for their meal and drinks in exchange for a conversation. Should they accept, he invites Sheriff Drobern to join as he explains the situation surrounding the town’s former sheriff, Jesse Masters. Miles proposes that the characters venture into the desert and attempt to find and aid Masters. He offers to pay them out of his own pocket, justifying that it is more than worth it to see both Masters and the town safe.

The reward that Miles offers to pay the party is likely to depend on the difficulty and length of their mission to help Masters. Is the encounter a quick one-off search and battle? Then the reward can be lower, though still enticing. But if helping Masters is going to see the party fighting through the desert and into the enemy’s home, you may wish to increase the prize. This does not need to be done in the first conversation, however, as Miles may underestimate the situation and only give the party a greater reward once they return and Masters themself explains the full extent of the adventure.

Aline Poria

(N female half-elf bandit captain)

A half-elven woman looks over her eyeglasses to you, adjusting a lock of fiery orange hair out of her face. Her blank expression and dirtied coat and boots betray the tiredness of a recently arrived traveler, and she quickly returns to her own business after only a cursory half-smile.

Though visitors are scarce, not all who are in the saloon are local to the town. A traveler by the name of Aline Poria has made a stop in the town to rest and resupply. She calls herself a courier, hired to transport mercantile goods across the desert at the behest of those who can afford her services.

Aline keeps to herself and maintains an air of carefree professionalism. She is unconcerned with the town’s current state and matters beyond her employment, though is not outwardly rude to those who speak with her and happily engages in polite conversation. Aline does not answer questions about her employers or the cargo locked in her cart, stating bluntly that the goods are not hers to speak about. 

A secondary task. Though she was hired as a courier, Aline’s current job was given to her as an excuse for her to carry out an additional task for her employer, Davis Krowsley. Krowsley doubled Aline’s pay in exchange for having her investigate any towns on her path for his wayward son. She was given a description of her target: an adult human man with blonde hair and an interest in his own appearance, likely wearing well-kept, expensive clothes.

Aline has found who she was looking for in Miles Kensel. She has observed him and his interactions during her time in the Next Noon, making note of his position and behavior. Her objective is to then take this information to Krowsley along with her cargo. Aline does not know why Krowsley wants the information and is not interested in knowing.

Sighting on the road. Aline sees many things on and near the roads that she travels, though one is of particular significance to the people within the Next Noon. Just over a day before arriving in town, she spotted a single person camping beside a fire, some distance from the road. Aline paid the individual only enough attention to ascertain that they were not hostile. She then made an offhand mention of the sighting to Vanko Howell over her first of several drinks.

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About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink.

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